Partition of India

partition of British India into the independent states of India and Pakistan in 1947

The Partition of India was the division of British India in 1947, which accompanied the creation of two independent dominions, India and Pakistan. The Dominion of India is today the Republic of India, and the Dominion of Pakistan is today the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People's Republic of Bangladesh. The partition involved the division of two provinces, Bengal and the Punjab, based on district-wise Hindu or Muslim majorities. The boundary demarcating India and Pakistan became known as the Radcliffe Line. It also involved the division of the British Indian Army, the Royal Indian Navy, the Indian Civil Service, the railways, and the central treasury, between the two new dominions. The partition was set forth in the Indian Independence Act 1947 and resulted in the dissolution of the British Raj, as the British government there was called. The two self-governing countries of Pakistan and India legally came into existence at midnight on 14–15 August 1947.


  • India whose ancient borders stretched until Afghanistan, lost with the country of seven rivers (the Indus Valley), the historical center of her civilization. At a time when the Muslim invaders seemed to have lost some of their extremism and were ready to assimilate themselves to other populations of India, the European (British) conquerors, before returning home, surrendered once more to Muslim fanaticism the cradle of Hindu civilization.
    • Alain Danielou, Histoire de l'Inde - Alain Danielou p. 355
  • India is free but she has not achieved unity, only a fissured and broken freedom.... The old communal division into Hindu and Muslim seems to have hardened into the figure of a permanent political division of the country. It is to be hoped that the Congress and the nation will not accept the settled fact as for ever settled or as anything more than a temporary expedient. For if it lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled: civil strife may remain always possible, possible even a new invasion and foreign conquest. The partition of the country must go,it is to be hoped by a slackening of tension, by a progressive understanding of the need of peace and concord, by the constant necessity of common and concerted action, even of an instrument of union for that purpose. In this way unity may come about under whatever form the exact form may have a pragmatic but not a fundamental importance. But by whatever means, the division must and will go. For without it the destiny of India might be seriously impaired and even frustrated. But that must not be.
    • Sri Aurobindo, Ghose, A., Nahar, S., & Institut de recherches évolutives. (2000). India's rebirth: A selection from Sri Aurobindo's writing, talks and speeches. Paris: Institut de recherches évolutives.
  • One ought not to forget that the terrible war of 1947 in India between the Muslims and Hindus was fought on a purely religious basis. More than one million people died and since massacres had not taken place when the Muslims had lived within the Hindu-Buddhist orbit, one may presume that the war was caused by the attempt to set up an independent Islamic republic.
  • The single most dramatic instance of religious cleansing took place in 1947, removing the Hindu presence completely from West Panjab, Pak-Occupied Kashmir, the Northwest Frontier Province and parts of Baluchistan and Sindh. The official number of victims, Hindus and Muslims counted together, is usually given as 600,000. We may assume that for the sake of not exacerbating communal animosity, the governments of both India and Pakistan minimized the true figure, which may well be one or two million. After the fact, the main thrust of literary and historiographical elaborations of the Partition atrocities was to posit equal guilt between Hindus and Muslims. Of course, you could anecdotically counterbalance actual cases of Muslim cruelty with actual cases of Hindu or Sikh cruelty against Muslims. But the over-all fact remains that Partition with all its concomitant horrors was unilaterally imposed upon the unwilling Hindus and Sikhs by the Muslim League... Also, the atrocities on Hindus aimed at eliminating them either by massacre or by forced emigration had started in the projected Pakistani regions months before any similar anti-Muslim atrocities started on the Indian side of the projected new border.
    • Koenraad Elst: "Religious Cleansing of Hindus", Agni conference in The Hague, and in: K. Elst, The Problem with Secularism (2007)[citation needed]
  • Shortly after the failure of the Cripps Mission, Gandhi effectively conceded Partition even in front of his own support base. Writing in his own paper, he mused, ‘If the vast majority of Muslims regard themselves as a separate nation having nothing in common with the Hindus and others, no power on earth can compel them to think otherwise. And if they want to partition India on that basis, they must have the partition, unless Hindus want to fight against such a division.’
    • Mahatma Gandhi. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2018). Why I killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse's defence. New Delhi : Rupa, 2018.[citation needed]
  • [During his prayer meeting on 1 May 1947, Gandhi prepared the Hindus and Sikhs for the anticipated massacres of their kind in the upcoming state of Pakistan with these words:] ‘I would tell the Hindus to face death cheerfully if the Muslims are out to kill them. I would be a real sinner if after being stabbed I wished in my last moment that my son should seek revenge. I must die without rancour. (…) You may turn round and ask whether all Hindus and all Sikhs should die. Yes, I would say. Such martyrdom will not be in vain.’
    • Mahatma Gandhi. (The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. LXXXVII, p. 394–5) Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2018). Why I killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse's defence. New Delhi : Rupa, 2018. App. 4
  • I am grieved to learn that people are running away from the West Punjab and I am told that Lahore is being evacuated by the non-Muslims. I must say that this is what it should not be. If you think Lahore is dead or is dying, do not run away from it, but die with what you think is the dying Lahore. (…) When you suffer from fear you die before death comes to you. That is not glorious. I will not feel sorry if I hear that people in the Punjab have died not as cowards but as brave men. (…) I cannot be forced to salute any flag. If in that act I am murdered I would bear no ill will against anyone and would rather pray for better sense for the person or persons who murder me.
    • Mahatma Gandhi. 6 August 1947,. (Hindustan Times, 8-8-1947, CWoMG, vol. LXXXIX, p. 11) Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2018). Why I killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse's defence. New Delhi : Rupa, 2018. App. 4
  • If all the Punjabis were to die to the last man without killing, Punjab will be immortal. ... Offer yourselves as non-violent, willing sacrifices.
    • Mahatma Gandhi. Attributed, in: Larry Collins and D. Lapierre, Freedom at Midnight.[citation needed]
  • Hindus were always in the wrong no matter who committed aggression in the first instance and who was the real culprit for creating communal tension at any time. History of the Freedom Movement (1885-1947) was tailored in order to put Hindus in their proper place, that is, as those who brought about the 'tragedy of Partition'. It did not mean a fig to the Indian 'secularists' that Hindus by and large as well as their organizations (Hindu Mahasabha, Arya Samaj, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) had resisted tooth and nail the Muslim League demand for Pakistan; that 97% Muslims of India ruled by the British had opted for Partition in 1946; that the Communist Party of India had marshalled ideological and statistical arguments in support of the Muslim League case; that Socialists had pounced upon Hindus who criticized Muslims and/or Islam; that it was the Indian National Congress which had accepted the Mountbatten Plan of Partition in June 1946; and that Mahatma Gandhi had thrown up his hands in utter helplessness at the last moment after having continued to assure the Hindus of Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Bengal that "vivisection of the Motherland could take place only on his dead body"! The exercise used the Nazi logic of accusing the sheep of provoking the wolf.
    • S.R.Goel, Preface, in Goel, Sita Ram (ed.) (1998). Freedom of expression: Secular theocracy versus liberal democracy.[citation needed]
  • It is highly doubtful if Hindu society would have been able to prevent Partition even if there had been no Mahatma Gandhi. On the other hand, there is ample evidence that Hindu society would have failed in any case.
    • S.R. Goel: Perversion of India’s Political Parlance, Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2018). Why I killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse's defence. New Delhi : Rupa, 2018.[citation needed]
  • In the [past] one thousand years many parts of our country had been ruled by the Muslims and then by the British, but the nation had never compromised, in principle, its sovereignty over any part of the motherland. As a result, our nation had never ceased to strive for throwing out the aggressors and liberate those parts. And history tells us that ultimately it did succeed in freeing the entire land from the clutches of foreign invaders. However, for the first time, Partition conceded the moral and legal right to them over certain parts of the country and declared an ignominious finale to the one thousand years old heroic struggle for freedom. Thus it was an act of humiliating surrender on the point of principle. The usual interpretation of Partition, however, does not utter a word about this aspect. Even while conceding Partition to be a tragedy, it is sought to be made out as the only practical way out then available - as the inevitable price for achieving freedom.
    • H.V. Sheshadri. The Tragic Story of Partition, Bangalore Jagarana Prakashana 1982, p.12.
  • It has been the tragic lesson of the history of many a country in the world that the hostile elements within the country pose a far greater menace to national security than aggressors from outside. Is it true that all pro-Pakistani elements have gone away to Pakistan? It was the Muslims in Hindu majority provinces led by U.P. who provided the spearhead for the movement for Pakistan right from the beginning. And they have remained solidly here even after Partition. In those elections Muslim League had contested making the creation of Pakistan its election plank. The Congress also had set up some Muslim candidates all over the country. But at almost every such place, Muslims voted for the Muslim League candidates and the Muslim candidates of Congress were utterly routed. NWFP was an exception. It only means that all the crores of Muslims who are here even now, had en bloc voted for Pakistan. Have those who remained here changed at least after that? Has their old hostility and murderous mood, which resulted in widespread riots, looting, arson, raping and all sorts of orgies on an unprecedented scale in 1946-47, come to a halt at least now? It would be suicidal to delude ourselves into believing that they have turned patriots overnight after the creation of Pakistan. On the contrary, the Muslim menace has increased a hundred fold by the creation of Pakistan which has become a springboard for all their future aggressive designs on our country.
  • There is no doubt that the creation of Pakistan was the triumph of violence...
    • R.C. Majumdar. History of the Freedom Movement in India: Preface to Volume 3: R.C. Majumdar, Firma K.L Mukhopadhyay, Calcutta. also quoted in S. Balakrishna, Seventy years of secularism.
  • “Political necessities of the Indians during the last phase of British rule,” he wrote in 1960, “underlined the importance of alliance between the two communities, and this was sought to be smoothly brought about by glossing over the differences and creating an imaginary history of the past in order to depict the relations between the two in a much more favourable light than it actually was. ....But history is no respecter of persons or communities, and must always strive to tell the truth, so far as it can be deduced from reliable evidence. This great academic principle has a bearing upon actual life, for ignorance seldom proves to be a real bliss either to an individual or to a nation. In the particular case under consideration, ignorance of the actual relation between the Hindus and the Muslims throughout the course of history - an ignorance deliberately encouraged by some - may ultimately be found to have been the most important single factor which led to the partition of India. The real and effective means of solving a problem is to know and understand the facts that gave rise to it, and not to ignore them by hiding the head, ostrich-like, into sands of fiction.”
    • R.C. Majumdar, quoted from Sita Ram Goel, The Calcutta Quran Petition (1986)[citation needed]
  • The creation of Pakistan is not the end of this problem. H.S. Suhrawardy said in 1946 that Pakistan was 'not the last but only the latest demand' of Indian Muslims.... He recommended the creation of a number of 'Muslim-majority pockets' in India. The birth of the Mallapuram district is therefore only a sign of further demands to come. .... The relaxation, on the eve of a mid-term poll, of the service rules enjoining monogamy on Central Government servants whose religion permitted polygamy was effected by the Government of India under the pressure of these organizations.
    • Hamid Dalwai, Quoted in B. Madhok: Indianisation, and quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa.p. 364-6
  • It is quite true that partition far from proving to be a solution to the Muslim problem has only aggravated it. But it is simply not true that there was a happy solution waiting round the corner only if partition had been avoided. For the Muslims demanded parity as the price for remaining in a politically united India and surely this was an impossible demand.
    • Hamid Dalwai , Muslim politics, p.113, quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p. 368
  • Therefore, the Hindus and Sikhs, the minorities in the new Muslim homeland, were not to be suffered to stay there. This “minorityism”, the name for Hindus and Sikhs, was “the major enemy of the Milltat,” as Rehmat Ali, one of the early League leaders and intellectuals and coiner of the word Pakistan, said. According to its original conception, Pakistan itself was to be larger than it turned out to be; it was to include Kashmir, Assam and Bengal in the East and Hyderabad and Malabar in the South and many independent Muslim states within the rest of the Indian territory. India, or whatever remained of India, was itself to be considered Dinia, an important Islamic concept.
    • Quoted from the preface by Ram Swarup in Gurbachan, S. T. S., & Swarup, R. (1991). Muslim League attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab 1947.[citation needed]
  • At Mansera and some other places (N.W.F.P.) there are regular camps where Hindu girls are being sold.
    • Krapala Singh, Select documents on Partition of Punjab-1947: India and Pakistan : Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal-India and Punjab-Pakistan, National Book Shop, 1991, p.639
  • At the height of the riots, during August and September, when the majority of rapes and abductions occurred, there was almost no limit to the vehemence of the mobs. Throughout the chaos, both planned and random abductions of women and girls were carried out, particularly in situations in which large number of refugees — disoriented and inadequately protected — had assembled or were on the move. For example, Kirpal Singh records that two trains crossed on the Kamoke railway line, one carrying 260 refugees and the other carrying Pakistan Army soldiers. After the latter realized that the former was carrying Hindu refugees, it was attacked. Most of the men were killed and 50 women and girls were forcibly taken by the soldiers. Similarly, in East Bengal, the Ansars, a paramilitary force responsible for the safety of the citizens also perpetrated attacks and abducted Hindu women. One of my respondents was on one of the trains leaving Pakistan and recalled how she hid in a toilet. ... In the confusion that followed, while she was fortunate enough to avoid being abducted, she witnessed many girls and women being taken from the trains. ... Describing the massacres of refugees in Kamoke, Gujranwala district, an Indian official wrote, the most ignoble feature of the tragedy was the distribution of young girls amongst the members of the Police Force, the National Guards (an Islamo-fascist organization-AN) and the local goondas. The Station House Officer Dilder Hussain collected the victims in an open space near Kamoke Railway Station and gave a free hand to the mob. After the massacre was over, the girls were distributed like sweets ... Later on as a result of the efforts of the Liasion Agency and the East Punjab Police some girls were recovered from Kamoke, Eminabad and some surrounding villages ... A list of at least 70 untraced girls abducted from the Kamoke train was handed over [to] the Police by District Liasion Officer ... It is feared that most of these girls had been sold or taken underground.
    • Bina D’Costa, Nation building, Gender and War Crimes in South Asia, Routledge, 2011, pp.57-60. Partition of India, 1947. [1]

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